The Longhorns and Bulldogs have spent much of the last week in New Orleans hitting tackling dummies, scarfing down Cajun favorites and answering dozens of questions about their respective opponent.
But as the two conference runner-ups finally take the field Tuesday, one will try to prove the College Football Playoff committee got it wrong while the other will attempt to show they are one step closer to reaching the top four in the near future.
With Texas and Georgia not having met since 1984, the interconference clash provides unique matchups on both sides. Here’s a look at which team has the advantage entering the game:
Texas’ Sam Ehlinger improved in virtually every aspect of his game during the 2018 season, eventually becoming the fourth-leading passer in yardage among Big 12 signal callers, while Georgia’s Jake Fromm nearly led the Bulldogs to a second straight CFP appearance before narrowly losing to Alabama. Fromm’s sophomore showing was far from disappointing, however, as he posted the second-highest average quarterback rating in the SEC, trailing only Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The area that sets Ehlinger aside from Fromm is his success on the ground. Ehlinger’s 13 rushing touchdowns have added an extra dynamic to the Longhorns’ big play ability throughout the season, and Texas will once again have to be reliant on Ehlinger’s game if it hopes to combat Georgia’s defense, which ranks 13th in the country in terms of total yardage allowed per game.
What Fromm lacks in the rushing department is easily made up by a talented stable of running backs, led by D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield. In all, Georgia boasts one of the top team rushing attacks in the nation, having reached 3,271 yards and 30 touchdowns during the season.
Among Georgia running backs who have compiled at least 40 carries, all four have averaged over six yards per carry, creating an interesting challenge for the Longhorns’ front seven.
Texas’ running backs are no strangers to playing tag team as well, with Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram largely splitting time as the primary option. But despite a generally successful rushing game this season, it’s unlikely the two backs outplay their SEC counterparts Tuesday.
One consistent characteristic of Georgia’s defense is that it’s been difficult for opposing offenses to score. In each of the Bulldogs’ 11 wins this season, the margin of victory has been at least 14 points. Combine that with just a seven-point defeat to Alabama, and it makes for a difficult road for Texas, which hasn’t scored over 27 points in its last three outings.
The difference in rushing yards allowed between the two is narrow, with Texas averaging just 135.9 yards compared to Georgia’s 130.6 yards. Where the Longhorns have struggled, though, is defending the pass.
The Bulldogs’ stellar play in the secondary is reflected in their 15th-ranked pass defense which falls far ahead of the Longhorns, who are ranked 114th by the same measure.
Of course, the absence of Deandre Baker, Georgia cornerback and Jim Thorpe Award winner, will close the gap between the two units. Baker’s assignment likely would’ve been to cover wideout Collin Johnson had the Bulldog not elected to skip Tuesday’s game in preparation for April’s NFL Draft.
Still, Johnson and fellow wideout Lil’Jordan Humphrey will face one of the most difficult tests of the season with cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes likely taking over the two starting spots.